The price of rhodium is trading 32% up so far this year and has added nearly $400 an ounce since hitting 12-year lows mid-2016.
Rhodium‘s main application is to clean vehicle emissions and the price quoted by Johnson Matthey, the world’s number one manufacturer of autocatalysts, on Monday breached $1,000 for the first time since June 2015.
Due to rarity, the small size of the market and concentrated supply – South Africa alone produces roughly 80% of the world’s rhodium – prices are typically volatile.
But rhodium (and sister metal ruthenium) stands out when it comes to price swings – the metal touched $10,025 an ounce just before the 2008 financial crisis hit, but would drop 90% before the end of that tumultuous year.
Robust car sales in China and the US, where gasoline vehicles dominate, coupled with rising emissions standards worldwide has been a boost for the metal. Rhodium and palladium finds application in gasoline vehicles while diesel-powered mostly use platinum for autocatalysts. Platinum at $970 an ounce has advanced 8% in 2017, while palladium is showing gains of 19%, climbing back above $800 an ounce recently.